What to do when you meet a boss from hell

What to do when you meet a boss from hell

Over the years, I've worked for a few great bosses, people who have nurtured me and given me opportunities to grow professionally. I still think of these people with fondness, even though it's been many years since I last saw them.

I've also worked for the Boss From Hell (BFH) on a number of occasions. The BFH can be found everywhere, simply because he's been successfully cloned. He might look slightly different from one organisation to another, but the net result is usually the same: He'll make you wish you'd stayed at home to stick a red-hot poker into your eyes instead of going into work.

And in case you think I'm only attacking male bosses, the BFH can just as easily be a female.

I once took up a temporary post working for a female BFH in a large British corporation. Rumour had it that she was cloned from the nail clippings from Hitler's big toe. She could be seen goosestepping into work every morning as she devised new ways of making her staff work even harder for the same measly wage.

When her staff performed well, she would take all the glory, but when they under-achieved, she would be quick to point an accusing finger at them.

Morale in her department was low, so low you could cut the gloom with a knife. But she must have had a way with her superiors, because she didn't seem concerned about her high staff turnover rate.

When she was in her office, she would keep her door open all the time. You could almost hear her radar-like ears whirring this way and that as she attempted to listen to her staff. If she thought we were talking about anything other than work, she would appear in her doorway, arms akimbo. She would then look slowly around the office, piercing one person after another with her laser-sharp stare.

The minute she goosestepped out of the office - possibly to wax her moustache - everyone stopped what they were doing and began complaining about her. I'm sure some of her staff had voodoo dolls made in her likeness, so they could stick large pins into them when they were home alone.

I was glad my assignment with that company lasted only six weeks; otherwise, I might have been forced to resign.

My next BFH was a committed micromanager with the IQ of a turkey. I suspect he retained his job because he was always sucking up to his boss. One particular morning, it was almost nausea-inducing to see him sidling up to the managing director in the lift just so he could tell his superior how much he loved his shoes.

"There's one thing that all great men have in common," he said. "Great shoes."

Try telling that to Gandhi or Nelson Mandela.

In the office, he would explain a brief to me as if I were a complete moron. Every few seconds he would stop talking, look at me and say, "Do you understand?"

I suspect he did this because he was completely clueless himself.

I was subjected to this insanity so often that I used to have a recurring dream in which a loud voice could be heard saying, "Do you understand?"

Almost every article I wrote for him was returned to me for correction. He would ask me to remove commas from one sentence and stick them into another - as if there were a limited number of commas that could be used in any given piece.

And when I did as instructed, the piece would be returned to me for a second time, along with a request for some inane changes that obviously hadn't occurred to him the first time around.

For example: "Her ample bosoms" was changed to "Her ample top". It made the woman in question sound as if she was wearing a large blouse. Similarly, "He bought the gun in a pawnshop" was changed to "He procured the weapon from a distributor of pornography."

It took me a while to work out that he thought a pawnshop was a place that sold porn.

By the time I'd finished the fifth and sixth iterations, most of the pieces had more or less reverted back to their original text. The BFH obviously thought I was too dumb to know what he was up to.

Since we spend a huge chunk of our lives at work, we owe it to ourselves to make the experience as enjoyable as possible.

If putting up with a boss like the clueless manager in the Dilbert cartoon strip is having a negative effect on your health, sanity or self-esteem, it's probably time for you to move on. Either look for a new job or, if possible, request a transfer.

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